Rob Baan, the Steve Jobs of Dutch Horticulture
Rob Baan (Haarlem, 1956) is the owner of Koppert Cress, a producer of micro vegetables. He created the company in 2002. His cresses - sprout vegetables - are used globally by the world's leading chefs and restaurants. Koppert Cress has quite a reputation as an innovator in the Dutch greenhouse industry. He was a frontrunner in using LED light. His latest project is harvesting summer sunlight and store it as thermal energy 6.500 feet.

His unusual perspectives define his unique profile in the field of food and health in the Netherlands and far abroad. His personal mission: "Let's look at fresh food and health in a different way."

Koppert Cress
Koppert Cress is on a never-ending quest to find natural, innovative plants, herbs, fruits and weed that chefs can use to surprise their customers. They intensify taste, make both beautiful and tasty presentations and offer new experiences (such as a now famous herb that literally electrifies and waters your mouth, first used by Ferran Adriá's famous restaurant El Bulli in Roses at the Spanish Costa Brava.) An international network of biologists, plant experts and gastronomists support a steady flow of new products, that meet the ever higher culinary demands of restaurants around the world. The latest we tasted was a succulent seaweed tasting both oily and crispy and yet fully natural and cultivated to preserve nature form wild harvesters.

The Dutch need to get their act together before even thinking about exporting horticultural expertise. Government must give horticulture its truly important role in greening and feeding cities healthily, stresses Baan. And don't employ imported cheap migrant labor, he continues. Solely exporting expertise – as Adri Bom-Lemstra, president of Greenport West Holland, stated earlier – is not a good idea, he believes. First, it must be part of the bigger picture, as it isn’t only about mechanics and greenhouses. It’s an integral system, combining a largely pesticide free and water scarce way of producing health, a better ecology, and less energy.

Making a healthy generation, that is our license to produce
Licence to produce
As a company you need to consider why you do what you do and how that benefits others. Baan is explicit on his license to produce. “My company exists, because we produce something that has health benefits to cities. Making a healthy generation, that is our license to produce.”

If and only if the system functions as a whole, a country has the moral licence to export it. “Now we know how it works. We can show you the impact of healthy food for cities, the ‘why’ for the other country. (See Simon Sinek’s Start with the Why.) We can show them how we can do it technically smart, intensive, and efficient. It is a system, you have to sell it as one. People will love it.”

What is your opinion on Rob Baan's definition of the Triple Helix as a foundation for the food system? Please share your views below.

The triple helix model of Innovation
This model refers to interactions between academia (universities), the industry, and governments. The synergy fosters economic and social development, as described in concepts such as the Knowledge Economy and Knowledge Society. Each sector is represented by a circle (helix), with overlapping interactions. The triple helix innovation framework has been widely adopted and - as applied by policy makers - has contributed to the transformation of each sector.

Europe's Green Deal
At the end of the video Rob Baan and Dick Veerman briefly talk about the European Green Deal, the EU's roadmap to a sustainable economy. The European Committee's ambition is to make it happen by turning climate and environmental challenges into business opportunities across all policy areas and making the transition just and inclusive for all. Baan would like to engage in a discussion with the Green Deal's architect, his fellow countryman and EU commissioner Frans Timmermans, on integrating food production, nutrition (preventive health policy), ecology, and health.

Climate change and environmental degradation are an existential threat to Europe and the world. That is why Europe decided on a new growth strategy that will transform the Union into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy in which:
  • there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050
  • economic growth is decoupled from resource use
  • no person and no place is left behind

  • Mixed Feelings
    The Green Deal was presented in December 2019. The European States received the proposal with mixed feelings. The Dutch minister of Agriculture, Carola Schouten, believes the EU wants to interfere too much in policy implementation in national and local contexts. However, German chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron call for a rapid adoption of the European Green Deal.

    A common concern is that the Green Deal is imprecise on how the roadmap should be implemented. Thus, the compliance criteria cannot be clear. That’s where Peter van Bodegom, environmental biologist, comes in. He states that these should be developed clearly and consistently. The Netherlands could play a leading role here, as the country has a real competency in the development of integral modelling.